The State Street Market in Los Altos is now home to some of the most inventive fare in the valley. Pass the chaat, please.
El Alto is led by chef Traci Des Jardins.
To anyone paying the least bit of attention, the culinary gods are smiling on Los Altos right now. Over the past several months, the State Street Market (statestreetmarket.com), or SSM, which is the peninsula’s first food hall, has managed to attract some of the most innovative chefs and restaurateurs to the venue. For example, in April, the team behind Palo Alto’s much-loved Ettan, James Beard nominees chef Srijith “Sri’’ Gopinathan and Ayesha Thapar, opened a new Cal-Indian comfort food concept called Little Blue Door at the Market.
“Ayesha and I are absolutely thrilled to bring Little Blue Door to life,” says Gopinathan. “After Ettan, this is the second stop of many in a long journey we’ve planned for our concepts. We’re excited to be at State Street Market with some of the best chefs in town.”
Gourmands are taking notice, so we asked some of the culinary heavy hitters at the Market to dish about their place at the food haven and preview a favorite dish on their menus.
The Liberty Farms duck mole at El Alto.
CHEF TRACI DES JARDINS, EL ALTO (elaltolosaltos.com)
Why SSM: “I’ve been really intrigued by Los Altos and all of the work Anne Wojcicki and her team at Los Altos Community Investments are doing,” says Des Jardins. “I love that it has this old-time, small-town feeling to it, with such a wonderful, deeply connected community. I always strive to create and contribute to the community with my restaurants, so it was important to me that our goals aligned.”
Standout Dish: Liberty Farms Duck Mole “I’m really proud of this dish,” says Des Jardins. “We’ve been working on the mole for months and months, trying to get the combination of flavors just right. I love this current iteration, but it will continue to grow and change, which is one of the beautiful things about mole. I also love the flavors of all of the dishes that come out of the Mibrasa wood-fired grill. It’s a great piece of cooking equipment.”
Fava vada slider at Little Blue Door
CHEF SRIJITH GOPINATHAN, LITTLE BLUE DOOR (@littlebluedoorrestaurant)
Why SSM: “The momentum that both Ayesha and I felt around what has been happening in Los Altos was palpable,” says Gopinathan. “We were really drawn in by the profound sense of community here, and the level of culinary talent that has been brewing here for some time. We’re excited to be a part of it.”
Standout Dishes: Rotisserie Cauliflower, Fava Vada Slider “We take such care with the cauliflower, treating it from beginning to end to let the flavor shine,” says Gopinathan. “By taking a traditional tandoori method and marinating the cauliflower in spices, then cooking it in the rotisserie, it takes on a super interesting flavor and texture. Indian food is never made using a rotisserie. It’s easily one of our top-selling items, and, so far, it’s been the most loved dish.”
As for the fava vada slider, the chef loves his personal take on vada pav, a popular Indian street food dish. “It’s basically a fried veggie patty slider on a buttery bun,” he says. “It’s so delicious. The version we have at Little Blue Door is made with ghee and ‘gunpowder,’ a really unique condiment of lentils and chiles, and it’s served alongside a tangy chile relish.”
Caliartichoke chaat at Arum
CHEF MANISH TYAGI, AURUM (aurumca.com)
Why SSM: “A large draw of Los Altos was the lack of Indian restaurants in the area at the time. In the heart of Los Altos, there was very little Indian representation despite the local Indian population. It’s clear that the people of Los Altos feel pride in their local businesses and have bonded over their home there.”
Standout Dish: Cali-Artichoke Chaat “This dish is an ode to seasonality,” says Tyagi. “Artichoke is an uncommon ingredient in India, so my interactions with it have mainly come from French and American techniques. Overall, the dish is all about showcasing a mix of Californian and Indian styles. While drawing inspiration from California produce, the sharable dish plays off of chaat, the Indian equivalent of street food. You really don’t need a fork or knife to enjoy it—it’s finger food.”
Photography by: AUBRIE PICK; AUBRIE PICK; COURTESY OF LITTLE BLUE DOOR; COURTESY OF AURUM